Ottawa

COVID-19 spread at private parties a growing concern, OPH says

People in Ottawa are letting their guard down, especially at private homes where they feel safe, and that's driving up the number of new confirmed cases, the city's top public health official says.

'This recent uptick in cases is a clear reminder of what can happen if we let our guard down,' says Etches

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, says Ottawa Public Health is increasing its dedicated staff to track contacts of people who may have coronavirus in the case of a positive case. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

People in Ottawa are letting their guard down, especially at private homes where they feel safe, and that's driving up the number of new confirmed cases, the city's top public health official says.

Throughout the month of July, the city saw a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. On June 30, there were 40 active cases in Ottawa. On Thursday, Ottawa Public Health reported 248 active cases, including a teenager who was admitted to intensive care in recent days. 

"These numbers are concerning," said Etches during a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

"They don't appear to be linked to the implementation of Stage 2 and Stage 3, rather, what we're seeing is primarily linked to our social behaviours and indoor gatherings."

Etches is asking the public to remember COVID-19 can spread in spaces that may feel safe, like in a family living room or around a dining table with friends, just as it can at the gym, grocery store or at a newly reopened bar.

"If you think about it, a bar that is doing all they can around physical distancing is a safer environment than a house party," Etches said.

"It is actually the people you have in your home, that you have close contact with, that are the source of transmission."

Wear masks inside homes, Etches asks

People should wear masks if they are gathering inside with others who are not part of their bubble, said Etches, and wear masks outside as well, if social distancing isn't possible. Regular hand washing, avoiding touching your face and keeping two metres apart, even if it's a family member or long-time friend, is key.

"COVID-19 is still in our community, across all neighbourhoods, in all age groups, and this recent uptick in cases is a clear reminder of what can happen if we let our guard down, especially when visiting with friends and family."

While Ontario now allows gatherings of up to 50 indoors and 100 people outside, those gatherings must include physical distancing, if they happen at all, said Etches.

"This idea that large gatherings are okay is not really true. Large gatherings are riskier and if you don't have to have large gatherings then that's best to avoid [them]."

Etches said if Ottawans gets back to the basics of physical distancing, the city will see COVID-19 retreat.

"We've flattened the curve before and I know Ottawa has what it takes to do it again."

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

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